Author: First of all, this isn't the completion of the entire story. Rather, it is the end of a series, like a season or a book. I thought long and hard about this and in the end I have decided to split up this story into six separate sections. I'm doing this for two reasons. One, because I thought it would be easier to manage this way, and two, because the second section is going to be a very, VERY different contrast from the first.
I also have a few other story ideas that I wish to upload in the foreseeable future. Don't get me wrong, I love writing this story, but working on one thing day after day can fry up your brain. It'll take a while finishing, but at least it gives me a major goal to achieve.
Also I received an interesting message from Kildred, who wondered if I was going to bring back some of my original characters in future chapters. To tell the truth I'm not too sure. Some of the characters I made were just scapegoats for been bashed (see Domiko and Jake), and I thought it would save a lot of time to give them a name, rather than having calling them 'the bodyguard' or 'the receptionist' all the time. Bare in mind I have a load of other characters from Negima and Love Hina to assemble as well… but maybe I'll bring some of the ocs back. I feel tempted to bring back Jake just so I can bash him to bits again!
Now, back to the story. This chapter is more drama orientated than the others… and I guess you could say it's the chapter all of you Keitaro and Chisame fans have been waiting for…
(…if there are any Keitaro and Chisame fans…!)
Chapter Thirty Two - Thank You
Finding another job was more challenging then she imagined. Even though she wore the best clothes and addressed the managers in the most politest of manners, she was still abruptly rejected. Chisame wondered what she was doing wrong. She looked at her curriculum vitae, bound together with a plastic wallet and folder. Not a spelling mistake was in sight and it was presented absolutely flawlessly, right down to the last word. Five pages of absolute gold dust, and they wouldn't even give her an interview.
It was the end of another unsatisfying day. After visiting nearly every shop and store in Tokyo, Chisame finally decided to call it a night. She hopped onto a late train, and since there were not many people on board, she had the luxury of a double spaced seat. She opened a purchased red box of pocky sticks and began to feverishly nibble the chocolaty biscuits, one by one. When it came to sweets and chocolate, pocky sticks were Chisame's preferred weapons of choice. They were lightweight and wafer thin so they wouldn't ruin the three important meals of the day, and they had enough sugary content to give Chisame that much needed stamina boost. Chisame re-evaluated her vitae with focused eyes. The pocky stick struggled to escape from her lips, but surrendered in the end to her rapidly munching mouth.
"It doesn't make any sense," Chisame thought to herself, "I've proofread my c.v. a dozen times, so if that's not the problem, what is? Perhaps I'm addressing myself the wrong way. Maybe… I'm trying too hard? Maybe I should loosen up a little…"
As she thought of this, Chisame carefully removed her glasses. This simple device resting on her nose made a world of difference when they were taken away. Though her sight was blurry, Chisame could still see her own reflection on the window. Her lips curved slightly as she tried to smile. For some reason she found smiling extremely difficult. She wondered why this was so. Come to think of it, Chisame could only smile properly when she was her Internet counterpart. Chisame considered untying her ponytail, but then she realised the after effects this would have. If one person would point and say 'Chiu!' out loud, then the rest of the journey would be more eventful than, say, the train being smothered in fire.
Time had passed on, and just as Chisame was about to nod off, the train stopped at her required location. Chisame yawned as she departed from the train. A few people got off at the same stop, but soon afterwards they had all scattered away from Chisame's direction. The journey to Hinata-Sou was always a peaceful one. It seemed like everyone who lived around here respected each others privacy. If only the same applied to Hinata-Sou itself.
After walking up the infinity stairway, Chisame strenuously opened the main door. The time was five minutes past seven, and the ambience was, in Chisame's mind, ordinary. Keitaro, Makie and Yue were watching a popular anime series called 'Lucky Star', whilst Mana was meditating in her room.
"Well at least there's no 'surprise visits'." Chisame thought. Mosquito's friends and Yue's pals sprung to mind. It was annoying enough for Mosquito to exist in the same world as her, let alone experience a regiment of nut jobs.
That moment Nodoka and Keitaro returned to Hinata-Sou, the librarian girls decided to return to their respective homes. Five days have passed by since then, though Nodoka would never forget the memories with her beloved crush. She wished an invisible presence would take a photograph of that time where she kissed him. Nodoka trembled with excitement to see what that photo would look like. Though Haruna and Konoka were sad after hearing Keitaro turn her down, they were also happy to see Nodoka in a new light. It wasn't dramatic, but it was noticeable. Nodoka had changed. Her nervousness and fear of men were steadily decreasing, day by day.
Chisame did wonder about Keitaro and Nodoka, but only briefly. The rest of her was thinking about food, then sleep.
Keitaro turned around to greet her. She looked like a zombie who waited to be smothered to death with holy water. Keitaro thought about saying something like 'welcome home Hasegawa-san, how was your day', but that would be a daft thing to say. The air around Chisame was enough to suggest that her day wasn't really all that great.
But Sir Duncealot still said it anyway.
"Welcome home Hasegawa-san, how was your day?"
Chisame looked as though she was in a trance. Her eyes emitted two frosty lasers through Keitaro's thick skull. "Just tell me what I need to hear," she replied.
"Oh, the food is in the oven."
Finding it a miracle that she could keep walking, Chisame strolled into the kitchen to retrieve a plate of beef curry from the oven. She placed Keitaro's homemade cooking in the microwave and set it for two minutes on maximum strength, two minutes too long for her liking. After a single 'ding' the food was ready for eating. A few steps later and Chisame placed her hot food on the dining table, and shovelled the contents down with a spoon. When she finished, Chisame returned to the kitchen and washed up her spoon and plate. She tiredly thanked Keitaro for the dinner and walked up to her room.
The door closed behind her.
She switched on her laptop, sat down on her swivel chair and logged on to her favourite familiar website. Chisame read all of her praise with an unsure smile. She viewed herself as a goddess on the Internet, and an average Joe in the real world. A success… and a failure… just like every other day.
Time dwindled on and the clock on Chisame's laptop showed half past nine. She knew she had to go to bed soon in order to wake up and catch the early train tomorrow. As she thought of this, Chisame realised she was still in her business wear. Her pyjamas were waiting to be worn on her bed, though during the summer season, these are now replaced with an ordinary white t-shirt with matching colour shorts. She removed her smart clothes, layer by layer. A nagging thought told her the door wasn't locked, a nagging thought which was three seconds overdue… for the door had already been opened.
"Oh by the way Hasegawa-"
Keitaro stopped speaking immediately. The poor guy felt like he was trying to swallow a cannonball. Chisame was void of all clothes, except for her panties, which were oh so comfortably worn around her ankles. For Chisame, it was worse than being seen naked. For Keitaro, it was better than seeing her naked, though he would never admit that publicly, or even secretly. Both of them were statues, and it was difficult to tell who was more freaked out.
Since that fateful December night, Keitaro had seen all of the girls in exposing situations. Makie was the first victim of Keitaro's untimely encounters. Keitaro poked his head through the ceiling, only to see the pink haired girl wearing a very tight top and shorts. Yue was the second when Keitaro opened the bathroom door, only to see her waiting for mother nature's release. On the quest to save Sayo from turmoil, Keitaro managed to catch a moment of Mana bathing herself. On more than a few occasions, he had seen all of their exposed forms in the hot springs…
…but even this grand total… wasn't enough to surpass the number of times Keitaro had caught Chisame unaware, and more often than not, semi-naked, virtually naked or completely naked.
"Don't say it!"
"Unless you want to look like a panda, zip it!"
Keitaro, already being the victim of one black eye, swallowed a lump in his throat and said no more. Satisfied with her successful warning, Chisame resumed eating her bowl of frosted flakes. The only other resident eating on the table was Mana. She kept to herself as she took slow mouthfuls of her buttered toast. The other two girls, Yue and Makie, had stayed up until two watching Animes yesterday, so they were still tucked into their beds.
"Mana, can you pass the sugar please?" Chisame asked.
Mana nodded and offered her the jar with the sparkling white contents.
Mana kept a watchful eye on Chisame. Not only she poured half the jar into her mug of extra caffeinated coffee, but she poured the rest on top of her cereal. No ordinary teeth could withstand that kind of assault.
There was a moment of silence until Chisame glanced upwards from her bowl, and gave Keitaro a serious look. "So… last night. What is it you wanted? I assume you didn't come upstairs just to see me naked."
It took Keitaro a few seconds to register himself. "Huh? Oh yeah!" he replied at last. He fumbled around in his trouser pocket and unravelled an advertisement he tore off from yesterdays newspaper. Wearily, Keitaro handed the ad over to Chisame. Chisame adjusted her glasses and carefully read the fine details.
"It's a fairly new restaurant in Tokyo, called 'Chao Bao Zi,'" Keitaro explained, "they're looking for an extra waitress, and, well… uh, I thought you might be…"
"Me? In a waitress outfit?" Chisame read aloud, "Are you serious?!"
Keitaro frantically stumbled for some words to say, but his mind was hijacked by a dream sequence. The background suddenly changed to a pink wallpaper with glistening bubbles floating upwards. Chisame was wearing a maiden costume with contrasting rose and red colours. She turned around in sparkling slow motion, and this time her hair was untied, allowing it to flow gracefully like shiny silk. Dream Chisame then removed her glasses and addressed Keitaro with a Konoka-sized eyesmile.
"So what do you think, manager-san?" Chisame asked, which followed by a giggle afterwards.
Keitaro smiled as though in a daze. "Hasegawa-san…"
Keitaro was brought back to reality when Chisame's hand struck the table. Chisame spoke again when she managed to capture his attention.
"Anyway, as I was saying, what makes you think I'm capable of such a job?" Chisame argued, "In case you wondered for the last six months, I'm not exactly the sociable type."
Keitaro was about to apologise when Mana gained control of the argument. She took a small sip of her tea before talking. "Hasegawa-san, just out of interest, what sort of jobs have you previously applied for?"
Chisame counted the places with her fingers. "Well, there's that western place, Electronics Boutique, Game, Hardware Electrodes, Software Haven…"
"How about places that are not computer related?"
"Look! Software and computers are the only two things I'm good at!" Chisame replied, frustration growing in her voice.
"Then maybe it's time to broaden your horizons," Mana suggested, "they say a mercenary will perform any job, so long as the pay is acceptable."
Chisame counted with, "They say a prostitute will perform any job if the pay is acceptable, but I don't really want something that involves shooting people, or sleeping with them!"
Chisame. Prostitute. Keitaro fell into another dream sequence.
She glanced at her wristwatch. The time caused her to eat her cereal in a rapid rate. When she emptied the bowl, Chisame rose from her seat.
"Damn it! This is what I get for arguing with you two!" she complained. Chisame collected her belongings and slung the jacket over her smart clothes. Without another word she slammed the door shut.
Mana put her cup of tea down. "Perhaps the mercenary reference was an unsuitable one?"
"Um, maybe." Keitaro scratched his head and replied.
Mana blew into her cup to cool it down some more.
"What about your job?" she asked.
Keitaro froze for two seconds before flying out of the house like a possessed chicken.
"Moron." Mana said softly and smiled.
The day broke nicely between morning and noon. Yue and Makie finally awoken, though they were still in their bed wear. Mana performed her usual rituals outside the hot springs. Keitaro had frantically apologised to all of his impatiently waiting customers, but after the first few minutes of awkwardness, Keitaro was performing his regular work duties, just like every other day. As he opened the till for the umpteenth customer, he briefly wondered what work life would be like if Chisame accompanied him. That vision of the waitress cropped into his head again. What possessed him to even think Chisame would like that kind of position? Perhaps a part of him wanted Chisame to 'open up' a bit more, but on the other hand, that was strictly none of his business. In fact, Keitaro could picture Chisame saying those exact words to him.
"I'm such an idiot." he said to himself.
"Rejected." the manager said. He slammed the door, quite literally in her face.
Chisame couldn't believe the audacity of some people. She sagged her shoulders and sighed. The first hour was already a spectacular failure. Was it going to be like this for the rest of the day? She retreated to a nearby park to sit on a lonesome bench… and to release all of her upbeat personality.
"I knew I should of had more rest." she grumbled.
She was about to retrieve a pocky stick from her jacket pocket, but remembered she was out of chocolaty ammunition. Instead she picked up the advertisement Keitaro gave to her. The piece of paper fluttered with the wind, only maintained by her thumb and finger.
It started to rain. Not heavily, but unexpectedly.
Chisame sighed as a rogue part of spring took over. She took note of the advertisement address, rose from the bench and ran through rows of crowded people. Despite the seemingly accurate address, Chisame still managed to get lost. Fortunately, the middle-aged man she asked directions for proved to be very helpful. In fact, the sheer mention of the words 'Chao Bao Zi' caused a few strangers to unconsciously turn their heads. Wherever this restaurant was located, it certainly proved to be very popular.
She found it at last, and conveniently enough, the rain had soon disappeared. The sky turned into a bright blue, and a faint rainbow replaced the departing dark clouds. Chao Bao Zi was twice as large as Chisame expected. The restaurant was displayed in a authentic and elaborate layout. The roof was thatched together using woven straw, and was firm enough to repel the strongest of storms. The shell of the building mostly consisted of red bricks, with a large double door and larger windows on the left and right side. Below the thatched roof showed the Chao Bao Zi words in a jazzy styled white font. Shown between the double door and the left window was a big cardboard cut-out of Chao Lingshen; the manager of Chao Bao Zi. The stationary Chao wore a beautiful kimono and had her right hand raised, as if beckoning people to come inside. Chisame showed a bemused smile. She hadn't even walked in and already she felt welcome.
Come to think of it, nobody had walked in yet. Chisame inspected the opening hours shown on the door. Just her luck. The place didn't open until noon, and her watch had just beeped for eleven. Even so, Chisame did hear a mild commotion through the door, proof there were at least a few people inside. Okay, so Chisame was earlier than expected… but was that such a bad thing? Heck, if she was allowed to come in, maybe they could see her eagerness to apply for the job. It all seemed very promising, but Chisame reminded herself of the position. Whatever restaurant she ventured into, a waitress was still a waitress. That meant, most of her time, she would have to interact with (shudder) people.
As she tried to make sense of the situation… a girl bumped into her.
Chisame flinched and took a step back. The girl in question was nearly the same in height and figure, but otherwise her appearance couldn't be more different. Her dark chocolate hair was very short, emitting a kind of tomboyish appeal. She wore a stylish green vest with a black Japanese symbol shown on its front, a pair of ankle length blue jeans and a pair of white trainers with snazzy red markings. Just hanging above her cleavage was a gold plated necklace. Her eyes were… closed…
Completely shocking Chisame to no end, she was now massaging the redhead's breasts, slowly and firmly.
"Um, hello? What the hell are you doing?!" Chisame replied, very close to calling the mental institution with her mobile phone.
Upon hearing her voice, the tomboy blinked and her expression showed her surprised brown eyes. Distrusting of strangers, Chisame thought this was all just an act, but the short haired girl did genuinely show she was sorry.
"Huh…? Hmm… HUH?! Omigosh! That's the fourth time that's happened this week! Please… please excuse me!" she explained in desperation.
"Um… no problem…" Chisame said.
The tomboy then narrowed her eyes as she gave Chisame a stern look. Chisame flinched again. "What does she want now?"
"Hey, you here for the interview?" she asked, her demeanour becoming a relaxing one.
For Chisame, that question was an equation written in hieroglyphics. The tomboy felt tempted to wave a hand across her face when at last Chisame answered.
"Yeah." she finally said with a nod.
"Cool! Follow me! Ah… oh by the way, I'm Madoka."
After that odd bout of weirdness, Chisame realised there was a relaxed, and at the same time, rebellious air around Madoka. Her voice was somewhat lower and huskier then most girls, which alone could attract guys twice her age. Her age, judging from appearance, looked between eighteen and twenty.
Madoka fished a small key from her pocket, and with it unlocked the double doors so she could push them wide open. Chisame took a deep breath and walked in with Madoka.
When Chisame exhaled, all of her confidence she had built up… was diminished in less than a second. Madoka was quite surprised to see the spectacle, but nowhere near as surprised as Chisame.
Chao Lingshen, Satsuki Yotsuba and Ku Fei stood in superior stances, with their hands pressed firmly on their hips. All of them were dressed up in chef's outfits. They didn't wear chef hats, but they did wear masks of devilishly twisted smiles. In the top right corner of the room were two other girls, dressed in casual wear. Begging pathetically in the centre of the room were Keitaro's irregular friends; Haitani and Shirai.
Chao Lingshen was the first to change her posture, cracking her knuckles when she did so.
"You two have some nerve showing up again," Chao grinned, "didn't we ban you twice already?"
Satsuki made a nodding sound in agreement. "Once for trying to look up skirts, and twice for 'accidentally' tripping over and falling on my breasts!"
"That second one took hours of planning!" whimpered Haitani.
"Not forget those two wanted to see me naked when I deliver food to them!" pitched in Ku Fei.
"Woah! Hold on! That was Haitani that said that! Not me! I'm… I'm not interested in your body!" Shirai wailed.
Ku Fei cried crocodile tears. "Sniff! You saying my body is not worthy?"
Shirai knew he should have kept quiet. "Uuuuh…"
Chao narrowed her eyes whilst still smiling. "So what do you two want?"
Still in the kneeling position, Haitani and Shirai lowered their heads so their noses would touch the floor.
"We… WE WANT TO WORK WITH YOU GUYS!!" they shouted out.
Chao could not believe their audacity. "You must be joking?!"
"We'll work on the minimalist wage possible!" pleaded Shirai.
"No! We can do one better!" begged Haitani, "We can even give you money!"
"Shhh!" hushed Haitani, "You'll blow our cover!"
Satomi, wacky genius and valued member of Chao Bao Zi, had burst from the kitchen into the main room. She was carrying with her a white coloured laptop which she opened immediately. When she opened her laptop, a whole range of wild gadgetry appeared, like some kind of pseudo pop-up book.
"Listen to this!" she said in panic, receiving everyone's attention, "According to my sources and calculations, Bowling for Beef has hired two spies to infiltrate other restaurants in order to steal their recipes!"
The attention was redirected back to Haitani and Shirai. With their secrets out in the open, the two bumbling idiots wished they were someplace safer... like, say, inside an angry volcano. The grins of the girls were even more malicious than before.
"Have mercy please!"
"We were only doing what we were told to do!"
Mercy was not in Ku Fei's vocabulary. With a repeat performance, the Chinese warrior unleashed a devastating blast from the palm of her hand, causing Haitani and Shirai to fly through the roof, and creating two human sized holes in the process.
Chisame looked at Madoka. She expected her to be a little surprised at the insanity, but instead Madoka was almost unaffected by it… as if she was used to this kind of thing. Now all heads turned around to face Chisame, Madoka included. Their faces were pitch black, and their eyes and wide smiles were all glowing white.
"JoIn uS cHiSaMe…" Madoka droned in a zombie-like fashion, "…BecOmE… oNe… Of… US…"
The rest of the girls chanted, waving their arms around like ancient mummies. "OnE… oF… uS…"
Chisame screamed and ran away faster than a one hundred metre record holder. Her uncharted sprint did not go very far, for she tripped over a crack on the pavement and landed face first with a smack. This stoppage of speed allowed Chao and Madoka to catch up.
Chisame started to panic. "L-Leave me alone you crazies!"
"Chisame-san! We're really sorry," Madoka apologised, "it's just that those two keep showing up, and they're driving us insane!"
Still worried, Chisame turned to face Chao and Madoka, noting their faces now retained their normal persona. Chisame concluded that she may have overreacted just a touch, but living in Hinata-Sou for over six months was enough insanity as it is. She didn't want this sort of madness twenty four-seven.
"You're here for the interview, right?" Chao asked.
Chisame weakly nodded her head. The poor girl had turned to jelly, and Chao and Madoka had to escort Chisame by lifting her arms over their shoulders.
"Alrighty! Let's go!" Madoka and Chao said, walking back to their beloved restaurant.
Chisame's eyes were in narrow slits, and waterfalls were emitting from them. "I'm… I'm so confused…!"
The restaurant was divided into six rooms.
The main room is where all the magic happens. The floor was of a white and red chequered design, and the wallpaper was coloured a lush shade of lilac. On the walls themselves were decorated with framed photos; pictures of what Chinese life was like centuries ago. The tables and chairs were placed in a way to ensure that every customer would have their privacy, although to tell the truth, many customers wanted to interact with the staff as much as they could. On the leftmost side of the room was the bar, available to the adults, who would only wish for a quick drink and a snack at lunch before going back to their working schedule.
On the top left corner was the door leading to the kitchen. Satsuki, Satomi, Ku Fei, and sometimes Chao all work there. Though Satsuki mainly specialised with the cooking, the others helped out with all the preparations. All the necessary ingredients and cooking apparatus were displayed and ready for using.
On the top, near centre of the room were two bathroom wooden doors, obviously leading to the male and female bathrooms. Chao remembered the time where Haitani ventured into the wrong door. She remembered because she was in the bathroom at the time. Haitani learned his lesson after a she perfected a rapid blossom fire kick in his face.
The last two doors were shown on the top right corner, and were available to staff members only. The first one lead to the changing room, and the other was Chao's personal managerial room. Currently, Chisame and Chao were sitting down in this room. A polished wooden desk was all that separated them, making the interview seem very personal. Chisame remembered her first meeting when she applied for Star Rock Enterprises. Three deadpan members of staff, all dressed to the nines with their business wear, had all tried to pressurise her with many extremely difficult questions, but Chisame showed great confidence, and answered all of them in a professional and accurate manner.
Chao, however, was different. One very long minute passed by, and Chao hadn't said a word. Chisame swallowed a tiny lump in her throat. She loathed to admit it, but Chao was making her nervous. Chao's stare could incinerate right through Chisame's glasses. Chisame thought, was this an interview, or a staring contest?
Chisame cleared her throat, "Oh, I'm sorry, I almost forgot." she said, and handed Chao her vitae.
Chao accepted the sheets of paper and placed it on her side of the desk. She silently read the first three sections on Chisame's vitae; her name, her date of birth and her hobbies and interests. That was all she needed to know. After reading this information, Chao brought her arms up high before stretching them in a sideways fashion.
"There's an extra maiden outfit in the dressing room." she said.
The shock was so strong it caused Chisame to stand up from her chair. "You… you mean…?!"
"Woah, not yet!" Chao replied in laughter, "Consider this a trial run. You start at noon, and finish at ten. There will be two fifteen minute breaks in between. You will be paid 1200 yen per hour, and this pay is inclusive during your trial. Any questions?"
Chisame was dumbstruck. Literally dumbstruck.
"Good. Be sure to get ready in five minutes, so we can greet you with the rest of the crew!"
Chisame took a worried step back, unaware the chair was right behind her. She nearly toppled backwards on contact.
"Well, what are you waiting for? Chop, chop!" Chao said, clapping her hands twice when she finished speaking.
"R-right!" Chisame replied, and did exactly what she was ordered.
No backtalk, no messing around, no arguing. Chisame contemplated Chao's way of doing things as she visiting the changing rooms. Her heart was pounding like an automatic cannon.
They were like bees to a pot of honey.
Even though Chao Bao Zi wasn't officially open, many people paced up and down in the sheer hope their favourite restaurant would open a few minutes early. Some of them were famished, but even though there were plenty of other restaurants around, their ambience was nowhere near as satisfying. For some, it was a Friday treat. For others, it was the perfect checkpoint after a stressful morning's work.
Chisame was used to dressing into maiden outfits, she had her Chiu persona to thank for that. Even so… the thought of she, Chisame wearing such clothes made her shiver to the bone. Chisame's face and Chiu's clothing was an aliening combination. Of course, she left her glasses and ponytail on to keep the identity a secret. She examined her outfit in the mirror. The main base of the outfit was somewhere between red and pink, like a kind of rosy colour. The high heels she wore were a glittery blue, and amazingly enough, had fit her perfectly. Try as hard as she might, Chisame could not spot a single fault to criticise. In fact, she felt envious such an outfit wasn't stashed away in her wardrobe.
The dressing room door slowly opened, and Chisame walked into the main room. To her left stood Chao, dressed and ready in a chef's outfit. To her right stood Satsuki, Satomi and Ku Fei, wearing clothes identical to the manager. A few metres directly in front of her were Madoka and two other girls, all of them wearing matching maiden outfits.
Chao wasted no time in introductions.
"Chisame-san, these are the girls you'll be working with. I… trust you've already met Madoka-chan, right?"
"Yeah," Chisame replied, "she has an… unusual way with greetings…"
The two girls next to Madoka started to giggle. Madoka rubbed the back of her head in embarrassment.
Satsuki made a nervous smile, "She didn't do the sleeping boob-massage thing, did she?"
Chisame made a sideways glance at the chef called Satsuki and nodded. "Is that what they call it?"
The girl in the middle couldn't wait to be introduced, so she introduced herself. "Hiya! I'm Sakurako!" she chirped, tilting her head with a wide open smile.
Sakurako was easily the cutest of the bunch, and that was saying something since all the girls were cute in their own right. She had hazel eyes and her hair, a shade lighter than Chisame's was tied up in a very unique fashion. Two big tufts of hair poked identically to the left and right of her head, and she also had two thin braided ponytails, shown diagonally on the bottom. It was quite a style, one that Chisame had never seen before.
"Hey." Chisame replied. Compared to Sakurako, her personality couldn't be more opposite.
"Try not to get her talking about cats," Chao said with a grin, "she has an obsession with them!"
"Nya ha ha!" Sakurako laughed with an eyesmile.
Chao then introduced the waitress on the right. "This is the lovely Misa Kakizaki!"
Misa could be described as the most feminine of the three. Her skin was slightly pale and her lavender eyes could make any male stop dead in their tracks, regardless of age or martial status. Her flowing hair was a rich purple colour, and reached down to her thighs in length. Her hair was only occupied with a single bronze clip, shown faintly above her hazel eyes. Her personality appeared innocent and quiet, though secretly she was just as wild as everyone else.
"Pleased to meet you!" Misa said with a quick bow.
"H-hi." replied Chisame.
Chisame looked at them all with an uncertain smile, though maybe that uncertain smile was reserved for the apocalypse to follow.
After greeting the waitresses, Chao gestured Chisame's attention to the three girls standing beside the kitchen door; Satsuki, Satomi and Ku Fei.
"This is Satsuki Yotsuba," Chao said, "quite literally the greatest chef there is in Tokyo!"
Satsuki looked to one side and felt slightly embarrassed. "Oh come on! I wouldn't go that far!"
Chao then leaned towards Chisame and whispered into her ear. "If you have any problems with anything, I'd advise asking her."
When she finished whispering, the manager coughed politely before continuing the conversation.
"I Ku Fei!" Ku Fei abruptly shouted, raising her hand like an excited school girl.
Chao sagged her shoulders and her drooped hands nearly touched the floor. She felt it was her duty to introduce the girls. Then again Ku Fei was like that.
Chisame turned around to greet the two girls, "Pleased to meet you Satsuki-san, Fei-san… um, you did pretty well in that tournament…"
Chisame suddenly realised Chao had taken part in the tourney as well.
"…ah, and you too, Chao-san."
Chisame felt a bead of sweat run through her face. She didn't want to suck up to them, especially before she began work. The words just came out by themselves.
"Appreciated," Chao thanked, "although we do tend to forget what happened afterwards…"
"How you not forget?" Ku Fei butted in, "We were nearly naked! We ran all way to city to buy replacement clothes!"
Madoka, Sakurako and Misa were all smiling nervously, but so God help them, resisted the urge to laugh out loud. Although the three girls had ventured Toudai Festival, they did not watch the fighting tournament. However, after the festival finished, Madoka learned what really happened after glancing on the front cover of a newspaper, displayed at a local newsagent. She could never forget the title, for it read: 'PSYCHO CHINESE NAKED CHICKS RUN AMOK IN TOKYO,' and below were Chao and Ku Fei in all their near naked glory, running whilst covering their shame at the same time.
Chao resisted the urge to leave an indented footprint on the wall, and instead decided to clear her throat very loudly. "A-HEM! So yes, Ku Fei is our first assistant chef, and our second assistant chef is Satomi Hakase…"
Chao placed a finger on her lips as she realised something.
"…oh yeah! Be sure to check out her webpage! It's called 'Sai-chan!' Chao added with a laugh.
Satomi blushed and waved her hands around. "Waaagh! Don't go telling her about that!"
"So she's a net idol too." mused Chisame.
Then there was silence. The time for introductions were over. Chisame gulped. She could hear them; beasts impatiently waiting to burst into the restaurant. Fear. That is what Chisame felt. Cold, nerve-wrecking fear.
Chao checked on her watch and grinned. "Well, we seem to be five minutes early, but what the hell!"
With that, she flipped the closed/open sign on the windowed door, unbolted the locks and let the first wave of customers pour themselves into the room.
Chao waved her arms with elegance. "Welcome to Chao Bao Zi everyone! I hope your stay will be a pleasant one!"
Madoka, Sakurako and Misa altogether dragged Chisame so she was a few metres away from the main door.
"Come on Chisame-chan!" Sakurako chirped, beaming with bright energy.
"Since it's your first day, it's your duty to introduce yourselves to the customers!" Madoka added, grinning a mischievous grin.
"Don't be shy!" said Misa, winking with an open smile.
The first customer met eye to eye with Chisame. This customer was new to Chao Bao Zi. He was a middle aged guy, averaged size and had a short cut hairstyle. He stared at her curiously, as if he was waiting for her to introduce him. Chisame at once stood to attention. Bow and greet. Chisame remembered the formal introduction; bow lowly and say 'welcome to Chao Bao Zi'.
"W-welcome to Bao Zi Chao!" Chisame stuttered.
Her eyes widened. She forgot to bow. Now was the time to bow.
Unfortunately, that thought didn't register into her brain. Instead, she took one giant step forward and head-butted the guy. Zinedine Zidane style.
Dressed in t-shirt and shorts, Mana explored the shops and the markets as she ventured outside. Realising she finished her training earlier than expected, the amazon decided a change of pace was in order. Already she was carrying two bags of heavy shopping, but like always Mana made the task seem effortless.
Makie decided to take advantage of the sunshine and invited her friends over to Hinata-Sou. After Ako's and Yuna's short journey, the three pals were united once again. Yuna and Ako were happily frolicking about in the hot springs, with Yuna doing most of the splashing and Ako trying to dodge Yuna's water attacks. Yue enjoyed the quiet life. She rested against a large tree and was entertaining herself with Makie's Nintendo DS. She was playing an online card game called 'Yugioh Spirit Caller', and seemed to be doing pretty well considering she was new to the gaming world. Makie however, was doing something very… un-Makie-like. She sat cross-legged with a pink book resting snugly on her thighs. Double blank pages were staring at her, as if waiting to be written on. Makie twirled her pen numerous times, but couldn't think of anything. Unfortunately she was so absorbed in her book that she was completely unaware of Yuna and Ako appearing behind her. Both of them had emerged from the waters, and, with towels around themselves, wondered what the princess in pink was up to. Yuna had a curious smile and Ako put a finger on her lips.
"Watcha doing? Studying?" Yuna asked, "I mean we've already finished the entrance exams."
Unaware she had company, Makie gasped and slammed the book shut… the worst mistake she had ever made.
"D-Diary?" Ako said. Sure enough, 'Makie's Diary' was written on the front cover, in bold ink no less.
Yuna's lightning reflexes did not let her down. She swiped the book and started to flip through every attended page.
"…'Senpai can be so dreamy sometimes'…" Yuna read aloud, "Omigosh! This stuff is gold!"
Makie bounced up and down like a desperate child. "Yuna-chan! Give that back!"
"Whoops!" sniggered Yuna, "Hey Ako-chan! Catch!"
"Huh? I don't want it!" Ako protested, even as the diary sailed into her hands.
"Ako-chan! Give it back!" Makie wailed.
For some reason, Ako started to panic. Instead of say, just giving the diary to her normally, she instead threw the book randomly into the air. After it remained airborne for a few seconds, Yue successfully caught Makie's diary. With her face.
"Waaagh! I'm so sorry Yue-chan!" Ako said with multiple bows.
Yue remained motionless as the open diary peeled itself from her face. With a gentle 'plop' the book landed on her lap, replacing the DS with an interesting middle paged picture. Makie wasn't an exceptional drawer, but the message was loud and clear. It showed a picture of Makie and Senpai exchanging mouths and tongues. Yue's eyes widened a little. This was almost as good as one of her favourite comic books. Her hand carefully got ready to turn the next page… but Makie reacquired it just in time. Now, Makie wrapped both her arms around it, to ensure nobody would pry the book out of her extra tight grip.
"So Yue-chan, on a scale of one to five, how much do you think Makie-chan likes Senpai?" Yuna asked, further taunting an increasingly angry Makie.
Back to playing the DS, Yue raised her arm with an open hand.
"Five! See? Even Yue-chan thinks you have the hots for him!" Yuna exclaimed.
"I DO NOT!!" shouted Makie, "Well maybe a little."
"And what about Ako-chan?" Yuna asked again. Yue responded with the same hand motion.
"F-F-Five?!" Ako gibbered, "No way!"
Makie 'hmphed' and placed her hands on her hips. "And what about Yuna-chan?"
Yue repeated the hand motion.
"What?! As if!" Yuna said in disbelief, "It's not like I blush wildly whenever I'm near him!"
Yue spoke for the first time today, "There are many different ways in which people like other people. Not blushing means you keep your emotions more secretive… but that does not change the fact that you still have feelings for him."
Yuna's mouth hung agape as she tried to make sense of what the blunette was saying. In the end she shook her head and decided not to bother. "Oh yeah? Well… how would you rate him?" she asked Yue.
Yue paused for a bit… before showing Yuna three fingers.
"Liar!" Yuna shouted.
Yue promptly cleared her throat and resumed playing on the DS.
The ambience of customers and waitresses pacing back and forth were muffled inside Chao's staff room. At the moment she was talking through a cordless phone.
"He's still unconscious, but his head injuries are only minor?" Chao repeated what the doctor told her, "Well… I guess that's a relief, thanks for the details."
She placed the phone back into the receiver.
"That Chisame. She really is something."
Meanwhile, the restaurant was filled with all kinds of madness and mayhem, most of it caused by the new recruit, Chisame Hasegawa. She certainly looked the part, but acting the part was a different kettle of fish. She lost count of the times she had broken cups and saucers. Things didn't improve when a naughty little boy dropped a toy car in the middle of the room. The moment Chisame stepped on it, she skidded straight into a man double her age, and landed her face straight into his crouch. Chisame frantically apologised but the guy waved her off, saying it was no big deal (it was probably the best bit of action he had all his life).
As four hours ticked by, Chisame had steadily begun to improve, thanks to the encouragement of Madoka, Sakurako and Misa. Chisame was also amazed at her own determination not to quit. She felt tempted to storm out of the restaurant, but where would that lead her? Would it take her back to square one, where she would be refused positions despite being overqualified for them? How long would it take to find another job? She shook her head and negated these thoughts. Chisame had a job. Although it was for only one day, it was still a job. For her sake, and for Keitaro's sake, Chisame wasn't going to give up. As long as she remembered to smile, bow and perform all her duties with elegance, Chisame would struggle through the rest of the day.
At last there was a quiet spell. There were still a lot of customers, but they were satisfied since they had everything they needed.
Chisame's cheeks were all red and puffed out. She hadn't realised how much stamina she used up until she stopped walking. Madoka shot a glance at the redhead. She was behind the bar, her favourite and preferred position of work. The tomboy made herself a small drink of sake, and made sure the boss wasn't around before downing the glass in one.
"Yo! Chisame-chan!" Madoka called out and waved. Chisame turned around and stopped a glass of coke from crashing at the other end of the bar. "For you!"
"Thanks!" Chisame replied. She looked at the coke, sparkling and fizzing inside the glass. It was so refreshing to drink after working so hard.
But the day was still young, when Chisame saw more customers arrive earlier than she hoped for. Haruki and Yuki entered the restaurant wearing their adorable summer outings. They spent most of the day doing homework inside the Tokyo Library, and needed some food to sustain themselves from working too much. Actually, this is the fourth time they visited Chao Bao Zi this month, and the girls were well aware of the cute couple.
Misa was the one to approach them. "Hiya cuties!" she said and ruffled their heads.
"Hey! Cut that out!" shouted Haruki, "I'm not a kid you know! I'm ten years old!"
Misa ruffled their heads even faster. "So cuuuuute!"
The two youngsters were escorted to their favourite two seated table, and Misa politely asked for their starting orders.
"Strawberry milkshake please!" Haruki and Yuki said. Their timing couldn't be more perfect and Misa resisted the urge to ruffle their heads for a third time.
"Coming right up!" Misa answered with a wink.
The purple haired beauty gracefully walked by the bar and whispered something in Madoka's ear. Madoka tittered and did as Misa asked. A couple of minutes later and Misa returned to the table with a gigantic heart-shaped glass of strawberry milkshake, with two extra long silly straws placed on either side. She put the drink down delicately in the centre. Yuki's mouth trembled as she tried to contemplate this lovingly prepared drink.
"Hey! We didn't order this!" Haruki complained.
"I know, but I did!" Misa replied happily, "Now you two lovers enjoy your milkshake!"
Misa left the two confused children alone. With reluctance they drank from their straws, and their faces flushed a deep red.
Chisame finished her glass and witnessed the scene. "Heh… I almost feel sorry for those two."
"You are so wicked!" Madoka laughed lightly. Misa replied with a victory sign.
With the customer commotion dying down, Chisame overheard a few words exchanged between Misa and Madoka. She learned Misa was the only one of the three to have a boyfriend, although she admitted their relationship was somewhat shaky. More often than not, the two of them would engage in heated arguments, usually caused by something petty and irrelevant on his behalf. Misa continued speaking her thoughts to her friend, wondering if she should just dump the guy or give him another couple of weeks to see where things go.
This made Chisame think about her life. She was twenty years old, her birthday long passed since the beginning of February. She never bothered telling the residents when her birthday was, and that was exactly what she wanted. People bothered her enough without the need to further embarrass her with a pointless celebration. Of course, she received a tsunami of praise as the Internet idol… and it was this kind of praise that made her day.
She drummed her fingers on the bar and began to think about… guys. Chisame figured Madoka, Sakurako and Misa have probably been flirting with guys ever since they reached their teen years… whereas Chisame hadn't made any contact with species of the male variety. She just wanted a financially stable life with a fast speed Internet connection to escape from. Now… by some weird twisted act of God… Chisame was here; a restaurant filled with some of the most interesting people she has ever seen.
The sound of the double door opening had alerted all four waitresses. They all faced the entrance and their eyes feasted on the new customers, though in all actuality, these customers were perhaps the more regular and favoured ones compared to the others. Four men with various ages entered the restaurant. All of them wore business suits which consisted of a dark grey suit, a white shirt and a red tie.
The front man of the group seemed to have been fixated with a permanent smile. Okazi was his name; a very kind hearted guy with closed eyes and a boyish charm. He was bald, and the outer ring of his hair was black with a few strands of grey. For a man in his sixties, Okazi was as durable as anyone twenty years younger than him. He was quite short as well, just reaching five foot five.
With Okazi were two very loyal associates of his, both of them in their mid-thirties and with professional short trimmed hairstyles. One was six foot, the other six foot one. Though they never spoke as much as Okazi, they still had a pleasant air around them.
Behind these three was the last man of the group. Ryou was his name and he was the baby of the four, despite being in his late twenties. His rich black hair was long enough to completely cover his ears, and his brown eyes showed nervousness, because this was only his third experience in Chao Bao Zi. He was quite shy of girls, particularly teenage ones.
With a bright and open eyesmile, Sakurako jogged over to the old man and greeted him in the most lovingly way imaginable. Chisame was amazed with her forwardness. "Good afternoon, Okazi-nya!"
"Oh ho! Good afternoon, Sakurako-nya!" Okazi returned the greeting.
Sakurako wasted no time in escorting the four businessmen to their table. It was a table Okazi always reserved in advance; a four seated one placed in the middle right of the restaurant. Madoka immediately poured out four different glasses, since she memorised what they had by heart. Misa carried the tray with drinks over to them. The businessmen sipped into the froths of their beverages, a much needed drink to tantalise their taste palette. After reducing their drinks to a quarter, Sakurako arrived with four menus to which she handed to each guy.
"Psst! Hey Sakurako-nya!" Okazi whispered, "Who's that girl over there?"
"Oh her?" Sakurako replied, "That's Chisame-nya! She's our new waitress!"
"Ooooh… can you bring her over?"
Sakurako strolled over to where Chisame was and whispered some words into her ear. Chisame found herself hard of breathing.
"Why?!" Chisame asked with a desperate whisper.
"They just want to see you-nya!" Sakurako replied, still retaining her happiness, "Come on! Don't be shy!"
Chisame cleared her throat before hesitatingly walking over where Okazi and the others sat. Okazi beamed with a very bright smile.
"C-Can I help you?" Chisame asked.
With his eyes in permanent slits, Okazi examined the new girl thoroughly. He appeared deep in thought. "Hmm… let's see… we have the angelic girl, the sassy girl and the cute girl… but who could this girl be?"
"Hmm… ah! I got it!" the second businessman said, "How about… the moé girl?"
"Moé girl?!" thought Chisame. Chisame has been called many things, but never once was she labelled as a moé.
"OH HO! THAT'S PERFECT! SHE CAN BE THE MOÉ GIRL!" declared Okazi. Already Okazi seemed to be quite merry.
Okazi then gestured Chisame to move a little closer so he could whisper something loud enough for only the table to hear.
"Pssst! Hey, how old are you?"
"TWENTY?! OH HO! You hear that, Ryou-kun? She's only nine years younger than you! Not like those schoolgirls you fawn over!"
The other two businessmen roared with laughter whilst Ryou had an angry look about him. His face was redder than a baboon's butt. "Damn it! Can you stop trying to hook me up with every girl you see?!" Ryou said.
Okazi whispered again, "Ryou-kun is a little on the edgy side. You know, time of the season and all…"
"I HEARD THAT!!" shouted Ryou.
The four had all selected their chosen meals, and Chisame, small notepad in hand, jotted it all down with haste. Her mind was frantic with all sorts of emotions, and dared not meet eye to eye with Ryota in case she would turn red as well. With the information listed, Chisame walked over to the kitchen door and opened it. She repeated the list to Satomi, who nodded straight away.
Although Okazi and the others waited over fifteen minutes for their food, it was worth every second waiting for. Master Chef Yotsuba made sure everything was perfectly prepared and piping hot. There was a great sound of appreciation when Chisame displayed their food in front of them. Chisame tried not to inhale the smells since chances are she would become hungry from the heavenly fumes. She always enjoyed Keitaro's and Mana's cooking… but Satsuki was in another league altogether.
Ryou wasted no time in tucking into his western meal; a gourmet beef burger with melted cheese and mushrooms. As he took another bite, his eyes looked upwards and noticed Madoka wiping the bar with a cloth. By chance Madoka noticed him staring at her, and decided to tease the guy a bit by winking at him. Ryou turned red again and started choking on his food. Madoka giggled to herself, but suddenly felt an icy grip take hold of her heart. Madoka didn't notice Chao walking in the restaurant, and the Chinese girl was giving her one hell of a death glare. Seducing fellow customers was strictly prohibited, and Madoka carrying her second glass of sake didn't help matters either.
After Okazi's arrival, it had become busy, but not that busy. More people ventured inside, but they were just after a quick snack and a drink, and then they would leave in a satisfied manner. Chisame approached every filled table and asked the customers if they were satisfied with their food and drink. All of them answered yes much to Chisame's liking. Chisame smiled. She would never admit it aloud, but she was, truth be told, enjoying herself. Just a little bit.
Chao called out to Sakurako before escorting Madoka to her office, "Hey Sakurako-chan! Can you take over the bar? I'm just going to have a few words with Madoka-chan!"
"Okay!" Sakurako replied, following the manager's orders.
The door opened once again and two more customers entered inside. Taking a deep breath, Chisame wanted to be the first to greet these people, but Misa beat her to the chase.
"Welcome to Chao Bao Zi!"
Usually the customers would return the gesture with a quick thank you, or at the very least, a polite smile and a nod. These customers, a pair of middle-aged men, ignored her like she was totally invisible. Misa frowned but realised some people were like that. It didn't matter to her that much, so long as they were satisfied in the end. The men walked over to the bar and sat down on circular padded tall chairs.
"Hey girl! Two pints of Happoushu!" one of the guys called out.
Sakurako visibly tensed up.
"Is there a problem?" the other guy asked, though it sounded more like a demand.
"Ha ha! No problem-nya!" Sakurako replied, trying her best to keep her composure.
Chisame's heart froze. By instinct she took a nervous step backwards. The guy sitting on the right was a lanky chap with an angular face. His nose was quite large and his hair was a messy, longish beige. Every time he grinned, he displayed a set of vile, yellow-brown teeth. With muddy brown eyes, he was constantly staring at Sakurako's behind. Sho was his name, and he was a long time friend of Daichi… the man sitting on the left. Both of them wore business suits without the ties, and looked nowhere near as smart as Okazi and the others. Chisame never met Sho before, but she figured anyone who befriended Daichi must be as nasty and obnoxious as the man himself.
Sakurako gave them the two pints of beer. Daichi and Sho paid the girl with grubby yen notes. Most people would have refused the money since it barely looked readable, but nerves got the better of Sakurako. She put the money in the till without a second to lose.
Fortunately, Daichi hadn't noticed the redhead with glasses, which Chisame was thankful for… but it would only take Daichi a single glance in her direction to find out who she was. It felt disturbing to say the least. Chisame continued doing her job, but felt cold every time she heard her ex-boss talk. After their third pint of beer, things were starting to get disturbing. Daichi and Sho were laughing and swearing, whilst the rest of the ambience quietened down to a dull murmur.
"Man, I wouldn't mind taking her from behind!" Sho said, commenting about Sakurako.
"Heh, you'd be arrested on the spot!" replied Daichi.
"Yeah, but it'll be worth serving justice for!" grinned Sho.
The two of them laughed into their drinks. Sakurako tried to hold back her tears, but was succumbed by emotion. She ran to the corner of the room and started to cry. Chisame clenched a fist. She wanted to punch them hard in the face. Just when she started to see herself in a new light, those bastards came along to ruin everything. Luckily, Misa had already rushed over to the kitchen. She informed Satsuki there was trouble in the restaurant.
Satsuki complied immediately. She stopped whatever she was doing and marched straight to the bar. The timing could not have been any worse for Sho, for he had lighted a cigarette, when the sign near the door clearly stated no smoking. At once, Satsuki snatched the cigarette out of his mouth, and pressed its butt hard between Sho's index and second finger. At once his confidence had shattered. He could feel the immense heat by his hand. If that cigarette was a little closer, one of his fingers would have been burnt to a crisp.
"Are you blind?!" shouted Satsuki, "Did you not see the sign outside?"
"N-n-no I didn't! I swear!" answered Sho.
Sho began to reveal his true cowardly nature. Satsuki didn't know whether to believe him or not, but that didn't bother her much. What did bother her were the sobs and tears coming from Sakurako. Anyone with a heart would dare not talk about Sakurako in such an unacceptable manner.
"And I will not tolerate anyone who speaks ill of my friends." she continued, "These girls work hard night and day, and they don't need the likes of you tainting them with your foul presence. Got that?"
Sho was so scared that he almost forgot Daichi was sitting next to him. Sho turned to Daichi for backup, but Daichi just shrugged. Even more embarrassing for Sho was the slight stench coming from his trousers. He had unknowingly wet himself.
"G-G-Got it!" he said.
"Good, now get out, and don't ever come back."
Sho ran straight to the door and collided face first into it. He was so freaked out that he forget to open the thing first.
"You too." Satsuki said to Daichi, her tone softened but still retained fire.
Daichi realised that any excuses with her would be returned with ferocious backlash. With a grunted sigh he pulled himself off the chair. He was about to leave when his eyes caught sight of a very familiar face. Chisame flinched. He spotted her.
Daichi turned furious. He could never forget that memory where Chisame humiliated her in front of everyone. Since Chisame left, Daichi was no longer an imposing threat by the people working for him. Some of them even sniggered in his direction. The alcohol inside him only helped fuel his rage. He swatted Satsuki to one side and angrily made his way towards Chisame.
"You fucking cow," he growled through his teeth, "you… fucking… cow…"
Chisame became scared and confused. She recalled feeling this way when Diamonji grabbed her by the wrist. He would have dislocated it, if Keitaro wasn't there to help her. Now it was Daichi's turn to oppose her. Daichi tightly clenched his right fist, his motive a simple one; break her goddamn nose.
Ku Fei and Chao instantly sensed danger. Leaving from their respective rooms, the two Chinese ladies dashed into the restaurant.
As they heard a sickening sound, they realised they were too late.
Daichi's expression was ugly and twisted. All that anger had been released from his system. Tears started to stream down his eyes… and finally… Daichi howled in agony.
"AAAARRRRGGGHHH!! LET GO! PLEASE LET GO!!"
Chao looked at Chisame with a grin. She then looked at Daichi before changing her grin into a venomous smile. "Let me make this clear to you, sir. If I see you walk into this restaurant again, I will not hesitate to throw you out in a body bag."
"That goes double for me!" Ku Fei added, jabbing herself with a thumb.
"Triple for me!" Satsuki said. She rubbed her arm from Daichi's outburst, but wasn't seriously injured.
All Daichi could do was nod. He would do anything just to get out of this predicament.
"Okay Chisame-chan. I think you can let go now." Chao said.
Chisame was reluctant at first. She knew Daichi longer than everyone around her, and Daichi wasn't one to keep his word. Then again, she had never done anything like this to Daichi before. No one has. Besides… she had two people protecting her. Daichi could never pull a fast one with them around. Meanwhile Misa walked over to Sakurako and placed a hand on her shoulder, making sure she was okay. Sakurako wiped away a tear and nodded.
Chisame sighed and released her grip. Daichi turned around and ran away, screaming like a child. Okazi and his gang laughed and cheered. Never had they been entertained in such a way. Even some of the other customers started a chorus of applause. Chisame felt a bit embarrassed and rubbed her head in a very Keitaro-like manner.
Amongst the cheering, Chao said, "I can't believe you grabbed him by the crown jewels."
"Neither can I." Chisame replied.
"I think you better wash your hands."
It was six o'clock, and the sky was beginning to darken. Makie and her friends were having so much fun, they forgot so many hours have passed by. Ako and Yuna said their farewells before leaving.
Keitaro had also finished in the tea shop. He dared to close five minutes earlier than normal, and luckily no more customers arrived. After making sure Hinata-Sou was spick and span, Keitaro relaxed in his bedroom. Mana was cooking tonight so he didn't have to worry about that. Right this moment, Keitaro was talking online, but it wasn't Haitani and Shirai this time.
UrashimaManager: Wow Aunt Haruka! It's been so long since I last spoke to you!
His aunt replied by sending him an image of a large paper fan.
UrashimaManager: Oops! Sorry!
Keitaro waited a minute but received no response. He wondered what she was doing on her computer. He then received a message stating she wants to speak from the webcam.
Keitaro opened his mouth. "Webcam?!"
He hadn't used his webcam for years. He only used it once when he was talking to Haitani. Unfortunately Haitani was drunk at that time, and thought it would be amusing to strip waist down and wiggle his naked butt in front of the screen. It was a sight to put off anyone using a webcam, and Keitaro hadn't used it since. He scrambled around his desk, and as luck would have it, the device was staring at him on the top left corner. He connected the webcam to the computer and selected 'yes'.
Haruka appeared on his window. She greeted him with a smile and a wave. Keitaro returned the greeting, but was still a little spaced out, since he hadn't see her face for ages. Haruka was still the kind loving woman he knew and cared for. Aside from her hair being a little shorter, her appearance has not changed at all.
"You need to sort out your hair." Haruka said.
Keitaro mockingly sagged his shoulders. "Well thanks! It's nice to see you too!"
Haruka's smile widened and asked how he was doing in Hinata-Sou. As Keitaro replied, Haruka could already tell he was ten times happier than she could remember. Through his teen years to adulthood, Haruka always remembered Keitaro being so depressed and morbid. Who was this guy that replaced him? Keitaro asked his aunt the same question, though he knew Haruka done a grand job maintaining her dormitory, as well as controlling the crazy residents that lived there.
"Why hello, who is this young lady?" Haruka suddenly asked.
Keitaro spun around and was greeted with cute pink hair and an ever cuter face. Makie had sneaked up behind him and gently wrapped her arms around his neck.
"Me?" Makie asked herself, "I'm his wife, Makie Urashima!" she happily said with a wink.
Keitaro turned red and flapped his arms around. "WHAT?! No! That's not true at all!"
Haruka knew she was teasing him, and smiled at the way Keitaro was acting. Haruka then flinched when she saw Yue appear out of nowhere, her face inches away from the webcam.
"Hey Keitaro-san, are you watching milf-porn?" Yue asked.
Haruka made a face from Yue's remark.
"No, it is NOT milf-porn!" Keitaro argued, "And can you get your face out of the webcam please?"
Then there was a bout of silence. Haruka wondered why Keitaro and the two girls were staring at her in such a way. It was only then she realised it wasn't her they were staring at, but what was going on behind her.
Behind an open door was the large living room of Haruka's dormitory. They could hear and see a little boy screaming for dear life. He was completely naked and was running in circles around the couch. Then the whole dormitory started to quake. The poor boy was being chased by… a dreadnought!! It was masterly crafted with all sorts of metal, and fitted on its shoulders were two colossus plasma cannons. Inside the robot was a girl with tanned skin and blonde hair. She was giggling as she unleashed blasts of energy like there was no tomorrow. Suddenly there was a control glitch which caused the robot to keep moving at high speeds… crashing through a wall in the process.
The boy, still naked, gasped a sigh of relief as he returned to the living room. That sigh however was cut short when a gigantic stone head rolled out of nowhere and bowled him into the air.
Haruka smeared a hand over her face. For her, it was all another day in the office. "Listen, I'll call you back another time… oh and Keitaro?"
By this time Mana had called out from the kitchen, telling everyone dinner was ready. Yue and Makie disappeared from Keitaro's room.
"What is it?" Keitaro asked softly.
The window screen went blank when Haruka left.
She was exhausted.
She thought playing Chiu in the festival was tough, but this single day sapped her stamina down to the bone. She didn't even acknowledge the sky turning pitch black. The time had struck four minutes past ten.
"Bye bye!" Sakurako waved, as the last customer exited Chao Bao Zi.
All of the staff had now entered the restaurant area. Chao happily stretched her arms, satisfied that today was a profitable day. Chao didn't have a single bead of sweat, unlike Chisame who looked like she needed CPR.
Chao handed her a padded envelope. Inside was yen notes. No cheque or bank slip, but hard earned money. "Here you go Chisame-chan! Thanks for all your help!"
"No problem." Chisame replied.
The air around Chisame was unusually silent. All of the girls were in the same room, but none of them uttered a single word. Weird. They could have at least said goodbye. Chisame sighed a little. She knew she could never live up to their expectations. Hopefully next time she could find a permanent position.
Chisame barely touched the door when she heard the voice of Chao Lingshen.
"Guess we'll see you Monday then."
A dagger struck into her heart. Chisame swiftly turned back to face the manager. Chao's expression was priceless. She was glancing over her nails with half closed eyes… and then her eyes met Chisame's.
"I've got the job?!" gasped Chisame, "But… …why?!"
"Well, you were a little rough around the edges, but you certainly worked very hard. I mean look at you! You're exhausted!" Chao said.
"And the way you treated that jerk was just wicked!" added Misa.
"A girl that takes shit from no one is a-okay is my book!" Madoka grinned.
Sakurako nodded. She wished she could have that kind of courage.
"I think this cause for celebration!" cheered Ku Fei.
Chisame opened her eyes a little from Ku Fei's remark. "Celebration…? I… I don't know…"
But Chisame's words completely died out when they were overtaken by the cheers of the other girls. When Satomi and Sakurako prepared and plugged in a CD player, something told Chisame she was going to bed much later then she had anticipated.
Chisame, dressed back in her casual wear, sat down by a round table. Alongside her were Sakurako, Madoka and Misa. Sakurako had exchanged her uniform into a pink vest and pair of red shorts, whereas Misa wore a lovely deep blue dress. Both of them had on fashionable rings and necklaces. Madoka wore the same clothing when she first met Chisame. A variety of colourful drinks were displayed in front of them; some of them nearly empty, others full to the brim of the glass. At the bar were Ku Fei, Satsuki and Satomi. Ku Fei wore jean shorts and a polo yellow sweater. The chef wore a red short sleeve shirt and trousers. Satomi wore baggy blue shorts and an oversized white shirt. Chao, who still had some written work to do in the office, wore a lime green t-shirt and black jeans. The ambience mostly consisted of rock music and girl gossip. Madoka was an avid fan of Anvril Lavigne; a female western rock star in her early twenties. Madoka had recently purchased her latest album and was more than eager to let the others hear it.
Chisame stared at her glass. It was triangular shaped and was filled with seven parts lime juice and one part vodka. An umbrella and a slice of lemon decorated the drink. At the moment the four girls were playing a game, well actually Sakurako was the main centre of this one. They wanted to see how long Sakurako could remain silent without saying the word 'nya'. They waited… and waited. Sakurako's lips trembled. It had only been thirty seconds.
"N…nya!" Sakurako burst out.
Madoka and Misa laughed their heads off, and Chisame covered her wide grin with her mouth. Why was she going to laugh? It was beyond childish. Girls, young adults were laughing about something really silly. Makie and her friends do it all the time. How was this any different?
"Okay! Let's do it again!" Misa declared, "Sakurako-chan… get ready… … go!"
Only eight seconds passed this time.
"NYAA!" Sakurako shouted.
Whether it was the alcohol or just being in the company with good friends, Chisame laughed for one of the few times in her life. Actually she laughed so much that the lime juice she was drinking spluttered out of her nose. Madoka and Misa pointed at Chisame's misfortune and started to laugh even louder.
After a while of hilarity, Satsuki presented the four with a tray of light snacks. Sandwiches, mini prawn balls and chips were all displayed on top of three big round plates. They thanked Satsuki and quickly began to tuck themselves into the food.
"Food tastes so much better after a drink or two!" Madoka said.
Misa was too busy eating to reply. With an eyesmile she happily bit deep into her sandwich. "Mhm! Mhm!"
Chisame nodded to herself in agreement. "The food is incredible… even better than Keitaro's… uh, no offence Keitaro."
She paused to think.
"Keitaro! He must be so worried about me! I don't want to be rude, but I better get going! It's already late enough as it is… … why is Madoka dragging my arm?"
"Come on Chisame-chan! You're dancing with me!" Madoka grinned, pulling Chisame off her chair.
Chisame didn't know what to say, or do. Ku Fei, Satomi, Satsuki, Sakurako and Misa were all clapping in rhythm to the music. For some reason… Chisame felt she didn't want to disappoint them. They were… her friends. Chisame didn't want to disappoint her friends…
…so she danced…
…she danced the night away…
Not a murmur was heard within Hinata-Sou, for it was only Keitaro who remained awake. There were often times where Chisame would be late for dinner, but not even hearing a word from her worried Keitaro to bits. He wondered what may have happened to her. There had to be some kind of problem. Mana assured him everything will be alright, but Keitaro did not completely place his faith in her. How Mana kept so calm… irked him sometimes.
Another minute ticked by.
Keitaro put on his shoes and rushed outside.
After the party, Chao volunteered to drive Chisame back to Hinata-Sou. She drove a dazzling, yellow open-top sports car, the type of vehicle only movie stars would consider purchasing. The other girls hired taxis to take them back to their respective homes, since they were completely wasted to do anything else. Fortunately, Chao was the only one not drinking, so with the aid of Chisame's directions, the two of them arrived safe and sound. Chao parked her car so it would only take Chisame five minutes to Hinata-Sou.
"Thanks for the lift," thanked Chisame, "seriously, you didn't have to do this."
Chao drummed her right hand on the edge of the car door. "Um… Chisame-chan? Mind if I ask you something?"
"You've never worked in a restaurant before, have you?"
Chisame shook her head. "Ah… nope, not really."
Chao smiled and pressed deeper into the topic. "You probably tried this place out as a last resort, right?"
Although Chisame felt awkward, she answered the question truthfully. "I used to work as a games tester for Star Rock Enterprises, but when I left that job, I started looking for other, how do I put this, game related places. To tell the truth, I only visited this place because a friend recommended it to me."
Chao nodded, as if satisfied with the answer. "And that guy who approached you, I take it he used to be your boss?"
"Yeah… that was him."
Chao patted her hands on the steering wheel, letting out a long, heartfelt sigh. "You know… Madoka-chan… she was never this confident to start with…"
That caught Chisame's attention. The sassy, wild girl who could sleep walk and grope breasts without knowing about it. She imagined Madoka always behaving like that.
"…she used to be bullied and teased in high school, and achieved next to no qualifications. Afterwards, she then worked in an office a few miles from here, but the staff treated her like some dumb animal in a cage. Naturally she quit after three months. Madoka-chan reluctantly entered our place because her father recommended it after reading an advert. So we gave her a trial run and… guess what happened?"
"Her old boss showed up?" Chisame answered.
"Him and two other work associates. Of course, after seeing Madoka-chan in such a cute maiden outfit, they started to make fun of her. Well… that is until she punched the guy straight in the jaw. I had such a devil of a time cleaning up that mess."
Chisame chuckled a little. Revenge is a bitter sweet flavour, but she found it to her liking. "What about the other two guys?"
"What do you think? They shit themselves and ran off."
"Heh… men can be such bastards sometimes."
Chao decided she took enough of Chisame's time already. As Chisame left the car, Chao told her one last thing before leaving.
"Remember Chisame-chan… just be yourself. Take care!"
Chisame watched the sports car disappear into the distance. The bewildered girl had undergone the most exhilarating day in her entire life. She instantly rubbed her hair. During the party, Chisame almost forgot that Misa placed cosplay fox ears on top of her head, along with a big bushy tail attached to her rear end. Sakurako also recommended a glossy pink lipstick to her… which, by recommended, Sakurako attached the stuff to her without waiting for an opinion.
It was at that time when a guy around her age bumped into her. Chisame felt the confidence running through the veins. "Hey! Mind where you're going!"
"Sorry!" he replied.
They both ceased walking and turned to face each other.
Keitaro flapped his arms like a maniac. He found it a massive relief to see her at last. His eyes and mouth were as wide as saucers when he panicked.
"WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?!? I've was going to take the train to find you! I thought you got mugged! Have you eaten anything? There's fox ears on your head! Why didn't you call? Is that lipstick? Oh no! Did you lose your mobile phone?!"
"Woah! Slow down!" Chisame said in alarm.
Keitaro took deep breaths and tried to compose himself. Mana was right, as always. There was nothing to worry about.
"I was just… scared something happened to you." he said softly.
Chisame closed his eyes and smiled. "Thanks for worrying about me, but really, I'm fine… aaaand guess what?"
She reopened her eyes. "I found a job."
Keitaro's face transformed into a terrific open smile. "Really?! That's great news! Ah, where do you work now?"
"I'll give you a clue. It has a 'C' in it."
Keitaro scratched his head. "You're a fisherman?"
"No, idiot! I don't mean that kind of… ah never mind. It's the one you gave me the ad for."
"Yep, I know. I was just as surprised as you are."
There were a million more things Keitaro wanted to ask, but with a wave of a hand, Chisame told Keitaro she would tell him more tomorrow morning. With that, they walked side by side. The silence between them was strangely… comforting. Normally, Keitaro would try to break the ice by saying something dumb and irrelevant, just to get the conversation flowing. Tonight, Keitaro was content. He was walking alongside the girl he fancied, the girl he loved. Panic and anguish changed into a quiet happiness.
Chisame was starting to get drowsy. She feared those Hinata steps would be the end of her. The alcohol took over her mind as she swayed side to side.
"Wonder if Keitaro will help me up those stairs," she mused, "maybe he will carry me… like a knight would carry a princess… it'll be just like those bedtime fairytales my mom always told me..."
A fierce breeze sailed into her body. All of her strange senses and drowsiness were dowsed away. She placed a hand on her forehead. Why on earth was she thinking such thoughts?! Chisame turned around… and noticed Keitaro had collapsed backwards, out like a light. After all, he was up all night worrying about her.
The door to the dormitory opened slowly.
"Talk about an anticlimax." grumbled Chisame. She slung Keitaro's arm over her shoulder, and ascended every step escorting all of that dead weight. She accomplished a miracle when she placed Keitaro on the living room couch. Keitaro lolled to one side and his glasses fell off his face, landing gently onto the floor. Chisame picked them up and placed them on the nearby table.
Chisame was about to leave Keitaro to his slumber, but before she walked upstairs, she turned around and watched him. She watched his body rise and fall. She listened to him mutter something unpronounceable. She smiled as she gazed at his presence.
Chisame Hasegawa was an antisocialist. She despised anyone with an open mind, and would try to detach herself from anyone who wished to be in the same vicinity as her. Not even psychiatrists could alter the way she behaved. Yet this weird, clueless, sleeping man… did just that. He managed to shape Chisame without the use of Photoshock or bunny outfits. He made Chisame see things… differently. After six long months, Keitaro had transformed Chisame Hasegawa.
The air around Chisame… thanked him a million times.
Keitaro found himself in the great outside. He recognised the place immediately. It was a place that teased many of his dreams and fantasies. He squinted at the clear blue sky. The sun could not have shone any brighter.
"Toudai." he whispered to himself.
He stood in the vast fields. Lush green grass swayed around with the gentle wind. This time however, there was no festival. The fields of Toudai were almost naked without the people, the stores and the attractions. Still, the fields alone made for a beautiful spectacle.
He heard a voice. He turned around and witnessed a sight even more amazing than Toudai. Chiu was staring at him with a perfect smile. The Internet did not do this wonderful girl any justice. The real sight of her should be reserved for those embarking the afterlife. Keitaro felt guilty by returning her sight with his own eyes. Chiu wore the same floral dress Keitaro remembered during the festival. Her hair and dress flowed gracefully with the wind.
"…you remember me… don't you?"
Keitaro gulped before answering, "Yeah… of course I do!"
Chiu tilted her head and made an eyesmile. "Thank goodness! I thought you had forgotten!"
Her expression turned a little serious when she opened her eyes.
"You know… Chiu still remembers you saving me from that big muscular guy…"
She smiled and placed a hand over her heart.
"Well… um… I couldn't just leave you…" Keitaro murmured. He was blushing.
"…in fact… you have done so much for me. Lots of little things and big things… just to make Chiu happy…"
Upon hearing this, Keitaro didn't know how to react. "Little and big things? What does she mean?"
"…so… I just want to say… thank you! Thank you, Kei-kun!"
Keitaro gulped, his body frozen. Chiu was walking towards him, slowly and confidently. She gently touched his hands with her own… and kissed him delicately on his right cheek.
"Thank you… Keitaro…"
Keitaro woke up without a sound. He was surrounded by near darkness. As he removed himself from the couch, Keitaro could just make out the time on the living room clock. It was three in the morning.
The last thing Keitaro remembered was when he was walking with Chisame. That, and of course, the dream which followed afterwards. What a dream, he thought. What an incredible dream.
Keitaro walked upstairs before going inside the bathroom. He was hot and sweaty for sleeping in his clothes. A nice, cool shower would solve that problem. He glanced at the mirror before getting ready. He looked at the mirror again, inching his face towards it. His eyes were practically glued to his own reflection...
…for on his right cheek…
…was a faint trace of glossy pink lipstick.
End of Book One